From Lucy To Language by Donald Johanson & Blake Edgar
Hardcover, DJ, 1996
Donald Johanson's most famous discovery was Lucy, a proto-human female barely a meter tall and among the first hominids to walk upright (about 3.5 million years ago). This trait distinguished her from her knuckle-walking cousins, the great apes, though she shared their smallish brain. This irrefutably proved that human ancestors had the ability to use their hands before developing the large brains that made abstract thinking possible.
This is just one of the fascinating hypotheses that this explorer-scientist relates in this book for general audiences. Paleoanthropologists use the tools of geology and evolutionary biology to study human origins, an approach that has yielded an explosion of discoveries and new techniques that are described in detail. The authors also present the findings beyond the terrain of paleoanthropology, in such disciplines as microbiology, in which the existence of a genetic "Eve" was calculated, the single common ancestor of all humans of 100,000 years ago.
The authors also tackle such thorny issues as the million year gaps in the fossil record, whether there is such a thing as race, and whether our brain size makes humans unique in the transmission of cultural learning. Among the book's highlights are the stunning photos by David Brill, a specialist in human fossil photography. Many of them depict life size skulls, which evoke the mystery of who we are as they stare back form the page.
Although too narrowly focused to become a best seller, this book is a masterpiece of popular science writing that requires no special training to understand.